LAKE CRYSTAL - Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial head baseball coach John Madsen utilized a little "small ball" strategy to squeeze out a sectional victory.
The Knights combined a leadoff walk and back-to-back bunts producing no outs with a two-run error by the Martin County West third baseman during the bottom of the seventh inning into an 8-7 comeback playoff win Thursday at Collis Field in Lake Crystal.
Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (14-8) advances to face Sleepy Eye St. Mary's in another Section 2A elimination game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Franklin Rogers Park in Mankato. New Ulm Cathedral defeated Sleepy Eye St. Mary's 5-1 in a sectional clash of previously unbeatens on Thursday.
CLOUDY RUN — Martin County West pitcher Alex Biehn (right) covers home on a wild pitch as Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial runner Bryson Yackel beats the return throw to the plate during Section 2A baseball playoff action Thursday at Collis Field in Lake Crystal. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Martin County West ended its season with a 9-7 record.
"Can you believe it - small ball? After Jake (Mark Jacobs) drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, I knew I should bunt, but I really didn't want to with our No. 3 and 4 hitters coming up," said Madsen. "Our No. 5 guy (Shane Nelson) has been hitting the ball well, so I went with the percentages and it paid off."
Trailing 7-6, Jacobs walked and wheeled to second base when Bryson Yackel's sacrifice bunt was mishandled by the Maverick third baseman. Madsen then gave cleanup batter Chuck Menne the bunt sign and Menne maneuvered his slap hit between the mound and the MCW third baseman for an infield hit to load the bases.
Nelson, who had delivered a clutch two-run double to whittle LCWM's deficit to 7-6 in the bottom of the fifth, then turned on a Jake Faber delivery and smacked a hard grounder off the MCW third baseman's glove and to the edge of the outfield grass. Jacobs scored the tying run on the error before Yackel slid home with the game-winner.
Ironically, Yackel earned the winning pitching decision via two innings of shutout relief after lasting only 1/3 of the first inning.
Yackel surrendered four runs on four hits during the top of the first inning before exiting the mound in favor of Bryan Davis.
Davis allowed three runs - only one earned - on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings before Yackel returned to the pitching rubber in the sixth.
"I think it was the right decision to bring him back in to pitch. He (Yackel) got a little rattled early, but regained his composure nicely in the latter innings," said Madsen.
MCW mentor Cody Leiding's batting order pounded out 11 hits, including three doubles, to build leads of 4-0, 5-4, 7-4 and 7-6, but unfortunately, could not hold them.
Faber drilled a leadoff single in the top of the first, took second on a wild pitch and wheeled to third on Toby Haugen's ground out.
Tony Payne lined a single to left to plate Faber before Payne circled the bases on Alex Saxen's towering RBI double into deep right-center. Saxen later scored when Alex Biehn's grounder was mishandled before Biehn crossed the plate on Mike Andrews' single to left.
LCWM, however, answered with four runs in the home half of the first. Davis and Jacobs drew back-to-back walks from MCW starter Alex Biehn before Yackel and Menne deposited RBI singles to center. A wild pitch and Devon Hagge's sacrifice fly knotted the score at 4-all.
The Mavericks regained the lead in the second when Cole Spear drew a leadoff walk, swiped second base and scored on Haugen's RBI single down the left-field line.
MCW later manufactured two unearned runs in the top of the fifth. Biehn doubled and Andrews legged out a bunt hit to put runners on the corners. Biehn later scored on a balk before Andrews crossed the plate on a throwing error.
Faber, Haugen, Biehn and Andrews each collected two hits for the Mavericks.
Menne went 3-for-4 with a triple to top LCWM's eight-hit effort, Hagge went 2-for-2, Nelson delivered a two-run double, while Jacobs walked three times and scored three runs.
Faber gave up two runs - both unearned - on three hits, walked one and struck out one in two innings of relief to absorb the loss for MCW.
MCW 410 020 0 - 7 11 3
LC 400 020 2 - 8 8 5
Winning run scored with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Alex Biehn, Tony Payne (2), Jake Faber (5, LP) and Toby Haugen. Bryson Yackel, Bryan Davis (1), Yackel (6, WP) and Shane Nelson.
LOB-MCW 9; LCWM 6. 2B-Biehn (MCW) 2, Alex Saxen (MCW), Nelson (LCWM). 3B-Chuck Menne (LCWM). SF-Devon Hagge (LCWM). SAC-Bryson Yackel (LCWM).